Golf is often overlooked when thinking of traditional sports. However, golfers like Senior Jake Leavitt are starting to turn heads on campus.
The golfer from Woodstock, Maryland was most recently named the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Men’s Golfer of the Week for the week of April 4 after his strong showing at the East Carolina University Intercollegiate hosted in Greenville, North Carolina.
Leavitt earned this award for the second time during his career on the heels of his four-over par performance, shooting a three day total of 220 (72-76-27). The only other time Leavitt has earned this distinction was for the week of October 19 in the 2016-2017 season.
Although Leavitt earned the distinction he still recognized that there is quite a bit of work he can do to improve.
“I played pretty well, I had a bit of a hard time driving the ball, but I hit my irons pretty well and I kind of scrapped it around and I finished pretty solidly.” Leavitt said of his overall play in the tournament.
Leavitt entered into the golfing program as a freshman at the same time the team moved from the Southern Conference (SoCon) into the CAA. Elon’s highest finish in the conference has been fourth in 2016, but that hasn’t stopped Leavitt from recognizing the leaps and bounds the program has taken in the past years to make people reckon with the Phoenix golf program.
“I think we’ve gotten a lot better this year than our results have shown in the past.” Leavitt said, reflecting on his past four years. “but it’s been a long process and it’s been really cool to see how that’s come along through the first couple years with coach Hill and how he has developed the program with all of the other people that have come before me and graduated and what they have kind of carried over it has been really cool to see the results come along this year.”
Elon’s program certainly has started to see the results they were striving for when they set out on their 2017-2018 season. The team has seven top-five finishes among the nine tournaments they have played in thus far. That includes a team win beating the field of 16 at the Phoenix Invitational shooting a collective 841 at the event hosted in Burlington, North Carolina in mid-October.
Being one of just three seniors on the 12 man roster, Leavitt has taken it upon himself to try and pass down some experience to the younger guys.
“Especially now, I’m more mindful of the fact that our time here really is limited,” Leavitt said. “You really want to make an impact and it seems like you’ll have forever to do it but I think you really need to put in all of your effort every day just so you can make sure you leave your mark.”
While that is great advice for all of us to heed, athlete or not, Leavitt has already made sure that he will leave his mark in the Elon record books. In last year’s Phoenix Invitational, Leavitt notched the third and fourth best rounds played in the history of Maroon and Gold. He shot a scorching opening round of 67, good enough for fourth all-time. He then proceeded to follow that performance up with a second round 66, besting himself by one shot and putting that round at third all-time. Those rounds, paired with a closing round of 70 combined for the best 54-hole finish ever for an Elon golfer, 203, for a staggering 10 under-par.
Leavitt has excelled past the golf course as well. As a mathematics major he has also found lots of success in the classroom during his tenure at Elon. Leavitt was named a Cleveland/Srixon All-American Scholar during his junior year for the Phoenix. While some may find the workload of being a student-athlete overwhelming, he has been able to strike a key balance between work and play.
“It’s definitely something where we have a lot going on.” Leavitt said reflecting on the balance of travel and play. “We still have classes obviously. But it’s very manageable as long as you pay attention to managing your time and making sure that you’re not wasting your time and you kind of get ahead of things more so than you might have to if you didn’t play a sport.”
Time management and accountability is something that Leavitt puts a major focus on both on the golf course and in the classroom. Golf is different from almost every other sport where you may only get to play two “home” tournaments your entire year. And even when Elon is the host of a tournament they still need to travel quite a distance. When Elon hosted the Phoenix Intercollegiate from March 9 - March 11, they needed to make the 91-mile trek south to Pinehurst, North Carolina, an hour and a half bus ride for the team.
“I know we travel what seems like every week,” Leavitt said of his busy schedule. “With golf more so than any other sport we play on a different field every single week and it’s something very different. I think that’s something that takes a lot of getting used to.”
However, while that may seem like a burden at times, the chances Leavitt has had to learn and grow through his time with the team is not lost to him.
“You’re adapting to very different circumstances every single week so I think that’s a great skill to have for the rest of life and in golf where it helps you change from week to week and adapt.”
Many consider golf a “life sport” where the unwritten rules and etiquette ingrained into the sport, such as politeness by not talking while your competitors are playing, dressing in the proper attire, and the courtesy of waiting for your playing partner to finish are all expected. And that makes Leavitt confident that those same unwritten rules are something that will stick with him for the rest of his life.
“I think a lot of the skills really translate [to life outside of golf]. In golf, you need to be resilient. That’s just the nature of our game. You’re not going to win all of the time you’re going to lose a lot more than you win, so you have to be willing to take the setbacks you face where there are ones and take the small positives out of everything you do.”
Responsibility is another key skill in golf and in life. In golf, no one else but the individual player is responsible for their performance. You cannot control what anyone else in the field that week does, the player can only control what they do. A player may play the round of their life, but they can very easily still lose if someone else plays just as well.
Likewise, if a golfer is playing badly, they have only themselves to blame. And as soon as Leavitt began to realize that reality, his game improved.
“I think it’s something that you just need to try and accept things more so than get angry at them.” Leavitt said. “I think that has taken me a long time to learn, and that is something that as soon as I learned that I was able to improve very quickly.”
While Leavitt may have limited time left at Elon, he is not quite ready to retire his putter after graduation, instead, he has a professional career on his radar.
“I’m planning on in late April going up to play the Canadian Tour [Qualifying] School and attempting to turn professional after our season is over.” Leavitt said of his plans after Elon.
But before he can begin to peruse his dreams of turning his passion into a profession, he must get through the remaining schedule for Elon. Leavitt will compete in the Clemson Invitational from April 13-15 in Sunset, South Carolina. Following that Leavitt will be taking on his final CAA Championships from April 20-22 in Raleigh, North Carolina.